Saturday, October 30, 2010

Chocolate coffee time!

You know you're a chocoholic when you look down at your work badge and discover that you have bits of chocolate stuck between the plastic. Not that that happened to me... just, you know, hypothetically speaking. Yeah.

Anyway, I know it's been a while since I last updated, but never fear! Today I come with not one, but TWO, chocolate reviews. Both, oddly enough, are similarly-styled chocolate bars (dark chocolate and coffee beans), though I didn't plan it this way.

When I was at the Market a few weeks ago buying the Dolfin Earl Grey chocolate, I also picked up a bar of Endangered Species Chocolate.

Extra coffee beans not included.

According to the package, 10% of the net profits go towards helping endangered species and their habitats; if nothing else, this statement makes you feel good about purchasing a chocolate bar. And as if that doesn't tug at your heartstrings enough, there's a rather formidable close-up shot of a tiger's eyes, giving the impression that the entire tiger population will go under if you don't buy one of these bars.

Buy chocolate, save a tiger.

What could be more tempting than dark chocolate with espresso beans and the notion that your purchase is saving the environment?

There was just one problem: the expiration date, like the Dolfin bar, had passed long ago (March 10, 2010, to be exact). I didn't notice this when I bought it, but hear this, Market employees: I'm on to you. Selling seven-month old chocolate for $4 is not cool and results in sub-par chocolate.

With the Dolfin, I wasn't bothered much by the fact that the chocolate was a bit old. Unfortunately, the Endangered Species doesn't hold up so well once the date passes. The bar was very hard, which affected the dark chocolate/espresso bean combination; I could barely taste the beans. I also felt that 72% cocoa was a bit much for this bar; it was almost too strong (60% would be much better and would help emphasize the chocolate AND espresso bean flavors simultaneously). The texture was hard and crunchy and not particularly appetizing. As a result, I had a hard time motivating myself to finish this bar.

All in all, I wasn't too impressed, although I would like to try it again when it hasn't expired so I can see how much the age of the chocolate affected the taste.

A week later, I found myself at Burger's Market picking up some bacon. Burger's is a small store with a very modest chocolate selection right next to the cashier--a location that I dislike because I felt as though the cashier was staring me down, impatiently waiting for me to make my choice so she could ring me up. So I quickly grabbed the first thing I saw:

Chocolove, according to their website, is sold primarily at Whole Foods and World Market (the latter, by the way, is one of my favorite places to get chocolate). However, for whatever reason, the only kind of Chocolove chocolate I have ever tried (or even seen) prior to my Burger's trip was Raspberries with Dark Chocolate, which I don't recall enjoying all the much.

The Coffee Crunch, though, is pretty amazing. It is essentially the same as the Endangered Species with one exception: Coffee Crunch is 55% cocoa, while Endangered Species is 72%. The cocoa percentages make a HUGE difference; in the Coffee Crunch, the taste differences are much more apparent than in the Endangered Species. The Coffee Crunch is milkier, which gives it a richer flavor.

My only criticism about the Coffee Crunch regards the coffee beans themselves. They were smaller than the beans used in the Endangered Species and tended to get stuck in my teeth; after eating a square, I found myself wanting to swish water around in my mouth to get the beans out. This didn't happen with the Endangered Species.

As with the Endangered Species, Chocolove offers an incentive for buying their chocolate: each bar includes a love poem! OMG YAY! In reality, each "love poem" is an excerpt from a famous work of literature; I believe the Raspberry contains a piece from Don Juan, while the Coffee Crunch excerpts Twelfth Night. The work doesn't really relate to the coffee in any way, but, as an English major, I'm a little amused by this sort of thing.

Another reason to buy the Coffee Crunch? According to the package, 30 grams (or 1/3) of the bar = one cup of coffee. So the entire bar contains three cups of coffee. Nice!

Endangered Speies Dark Chocolate with Espresso Beans rating: 3.5/5
Chocolove Coffee Crunch rating: 4.5/5

Friday, October 22, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tea + Chocolate = ???

Mid-week I found myself in desperate need of chocolate after I started nodding off at my desk at work, so I popped over to the Theatre Square Marketplace for my caffeine fix. For those of you in Louisville, the marketplace is located on south Fourth Street and is home to a restaurant, wine shop, Nancy's Bagel Box, and a small grocery that contains a modest chocolate selection. Almost all of the chocolate bars sold in the grocery are imported brands; when I was there this past week, I'm pretty sure the only American brand was Scharffen Berger.

I ended up buying this:

Yes, that's right. DARK CHOCOLATE WITH EARL GREY TEA GROUNDS. According to the Dolfin website, "Our Master Chocolatiers dare the most unexpected associations, inventing harmonies subtle look at the team finest ingredients, they select from what Nature has to offer." (Okay, their website is in French so I had Google translate it... but you get the idea.) Needless to say, I was intrigued by the tea+chocolate combo, so I paid the $5 for this bar, ignored the red sticker on the back that stated it was best before February 28, 2010, and dug in.

The first thing that caught my attention was the packaging. Rather than being wrapped in the standard paper packaging of most bars, the Dolfin came in a resealable plastic pouch (to preserve freshness) with the actual bar tucked inside and wrapped in an additional, much thinner, layer of paper.

I have mad Photoshop skills.

The second thing that struck me was the smell. The Dolfin smells exactly like a hot mug of Earl Grey tea would; as a coworker who sits on the other side of my cubicle noted, it was so strong that she could smell it over the divider between our desks.

And then... oh, the taste. At first, I thought the Earl Grey was underwhelming compared to the rest of the chocolate. But the more I ate, the more I realized that it contained just the right amount of Earl Grey. If any more tea leaves were added to the chocolate, it would taste way too strong and the chocolate flavor would be overwhelmed. I also loved how the ground tea leaves were visible in the chocolate, adding a crunchy texture that I rather enjoyed.

My only complaint is that the chocolate seemed rather hard, but that may have been because it was apparently way past the expiration date. Either way, it's a small quibble that I'm sure most people won't even notice.

All in all, an excellent chocolate bar. If you like Earl Grey tea and dark chocolate (and don't mind paying $5), this is the perfect bar for you. I'm on the prowl now for other Dolfin chocolates; apparently they have bars with peppercorn, ginger, mint, crystallized orange peel, green tea, cinnamon... the list goes on!

Dolfin Noir Earl Grey rating: 5/5

Sunday, October 10, 2010

OMG. I have followers!

People are following this blog, so I figured I'd do my first review. Actually... I haven't tried any new chocolate in a while. >.> So I have to go back about a month to my last foray into the chocolate world: the Wonka Exeptionals Domed Dark Chocolate.

My bag didn't say anything about a golden ticket...

I should point out here that I usually stay away from big-name chocolate brands like Hershey's and Wonka because, frankly, the quality just can't compete with more refined chocolates (Ghirardelli, Lindt, etc.). In my opinion, chocolate companies like Wonka sacrifice quality for cheap prices, so their chocolates end up being of a lesser quality and taste.

So what brought me to try these chocolates? As it may be, fate intervened in the form of my grandmother, who loves to try any new candy product (especially if it's Hershey's or Wonka... obviously, we have very different tastes in chocolate). Unfortunately, she bought a bag of these without realizing that they were dark chocolate, which she dislikes. So after trying one or three, she bequeathed the bag to me.

As soon as I bit into my first square, I had flashbacks to another (much better) chocolate bar that I had tried quite some time ago: the Ghirardelli Luxe Milk Duet.

A much better product.

Both products center around a combination of milk and dark chocolate; in the case of the Wonka, a circle of milk chocolate is encased by dark chocolate to form a square. The duet, on the other hand, places a thin layer of milk chocolate over another thin layer of dark chocolate. The Ghirardelli Duet is the superior product for two reasons: first, the quality of chocolate is better; and second, because the Duet squares are much thinner than the Duet squares. Thus, when I bite into a Duet, my mouth is filled with a perfectly rich, creamy, milk and dark chocolate combo. Unfortunately, with the Wonka, a bite of the same size just gives me the impression of dark chocolate with a hint of milk. In this case, less is more; perhaps the Wonka would have a much better taste if the squares weren't so thick, which would even out the milk and dark taste in each bite.

Of course, Wonka isn't catering to chocolate aficionados such as myself. If you enjoy Wonka products, or don't really care about the quality of chocolate and want something cheap, you'll probably love the Wonka. I took the bag to work and within 24 hours my coworkers had helped me devour every single piece.

Wonka Domed Dark Chocolate rating: 3/5
Ghirardelli Duet rating: 5/5 (note: these aren't listed on the Ghirardelli website anymore, which makes me think they're not being sold anymore. Alas!)